NYU Black Renaissance Noire Spring 2015 - Page 118

It serves no purpose to focus on past harm done. The more reasonable approach is to see if the damage done by the old colonial denial of African productivity in history, philosophy, science and the arts is reversible. In plainer terms, can the lies told by the anthropologists serving the Berlin system of African fragmentation be replaced with accurate information about our history, philosophy and culture? 116 The answer is an unequivocal yes. The information exists. It covers the more than three thousand years of ancient African history before the Greeks found out what great improvements the systematic use of reason could bring to the organization of human life. Even though the hostility of invading European and Arab armies and religions pushed the pursuit of the reasoned life underground with the onset of the Christian and Muslim invasions of Africa, the historical record of Africa did not get entirely wiped out. Populations pushed out of the Nile valley did lose a great deal of their ancient culture, but some still tried to set up schools and to keep records, so that the written records of African history are available not just for the first three thousand years of ancient history, but also for much of the ensuing two thousand years. These records used the scripts available to scholars at the time they wrote, just as today, we African scholars still use French, English, and Portuguese, though we could wake up and create a language of our own. The languages included Arabic, the language of invaders, as well as Sudani, Malian and other African languages. Why is this information not being accessed, researched, processed and taught at institutes of African studies and in departments of history, philosophy, literature and science throughout Africa? Because the brothers and sisters now teaching there were not taught that the information existed, and they have tended, quite naturally, to teach what they were taught. The problem is that what they were taught was a mixture of insufficient knowledge with great gobs of dogma, not just dogma but dogma designed to keep Africans thinking that we have no intellectual antecedents. This, from a systems viewpoint, is functional misinformation. Its effectiveness can be measured by the extent to which, whenever we Africans are faced with challenges calling for original thinking and bold, innovative intellectual effort, we collapse into the arms of experts from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and Foundations X, Y, and Z, conveniently forgetting that what these institutions and the states behind them are about is not how to improve the wellbeing of Africans, but how to improve their wellbeing at our expense by persuading us to export what we need to keep at home if we want to create our own future. It is pointless to blame conformist African professors for rehashing hypocoristic anthropological notions about Africa as an irrational society with no history and no philosophy, needing to borrow Western rationality if it is to advance into the future. They were given substandard intellectual tools with which to do their work, in the sense that instead of being encouraged to learn hieroglyphic or Sudani script in order to access data on African history, they were allowed to take the lazy path of recording and commenting on missionary diaries, colonial decrees, and our grandmothers’ lullabies for their doctorates. Lullabies and traditional songs are fine, but as the stuff of learning they are superficial. To the stock of African ethnic lore, schools of African studies need to add the much more challenging data locked up in hieroglyphic, Ethiopic, Sudani and other African writings. To what purpose? Anyone whose prime purpose is to get a degree would be well advised to study a hundred local songs gathered close to home. It’s a much easier path to tread. But the study of Africa’s true historical and philosophical heritage can serve a much more interesting purpose that the acquisition of paper credentials. Africans who learn to acc